EVERGREEN, Colo. (CBS4)– Despite changes in the emergency alert system in Jefferson County, some people living in the evacuation area for the Bluebell Fire did not receive a phone call and others living outside the zone did receive the alert.
It could be a dangerous situation when the phone call notification to evacuate is missed or never received.
What happened is still being investigated.
The message, “This is the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. There is danger in your area and you need to leave immediately” was sent to nearly 10,000 phones in Evergreen. About 71 percent of those calls were answered.
“I would rather have had the call than not have had it and needed it,” said Evergreen resident Denise Gary.
“It was kind of panic mode there until we actually turned the news on and saw we weren’t in the evacuation zone,” said Evergreen resident Sarah Hogan.
Some calls were made to residents living outside the evacuation zone.
One of those calls went to the Life Care Center of Evergreen, a retirement community with about 90 residents.
“We called local dispatch to double check and see if we needed to evacuate. They informed us we really didn’t need to evacuate yet,” said a spokesman for the Life Care Center.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said the alert system will be reviewed.
“We know that it worked to a large degree. Is it perfect? It never will be. Are there some things that need to be tweaked? Probably,” said Jefferson County Sheriff spokeswoman Jacki Kelley.
In March 2012, a wildfire caused by a prescribed burn that went out of control killed three Jefferson County residents, destroyed or damaged 27 houses, and charred about 2 square miles.
That fire exposed weaknesses in an emergency alert system, and sheriff’s officials concluded that about 12 percent of the people authorities intended to notify didn’t get a warning.
When the Bluebell Fire started putting out smoke, Jefferson County sent out nearly 10,000 alerts to residents. The county says they are constantly reviewing the new code red system and say for the most part it worked well.
The county is asking everyone to sign up for CodeRED and use email, landline and cellphone. And be sure to sign up the phone number for everyone in the family.
There are other things people should be doing to be prepared for any type of catastrophe. Take inventory of your home. Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster. It will also verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.
When the Bluebell Fire broke out, State Farm Insurance sent out a news release with tips for the evacuees, but the tips apply for all wildfires. (READ: Important Insurance Information)
– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.
– Read recent Wildfire stories.
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